(For the Italian version read Onda Musicale)
Peter Kvint is one of the most sought after producers and songwriters of the moment. He has written and produced international hits, climbing the world charts. His strength lies in the refinement of melodic lines and harmonies, but also for having written pieces with an intense text.
Sven Peter Kvint was born on June 17, 1965 in Karlstad (Sweden). Her father was a dentist and her mother Kerstin is a literary agent and was the secretary of Astrid Lindgren (known to Italian and international audiences as the author of the novels starring “Pippi Longstocking”).
He has learned to play different musical instruments since childhood, but Peter Kvint was born as a guitarist. His interest in music stems from a love for artists like David Bowie and bands like Sparks and T Rex. He began playing and writing with his first band, Farbror Blå, releasing two albums before they broke up. His second band was the high-potential rock pop trio Melony, where Kvint was the frontman, songwriter and guitarist.
Kvint began collaborating with Andreas Johnson long before signing the international hit “Glorious“. His “epic” and pompous production was indicative of his ability to create impressive soundscapes that convey the typical nuances of a distinctive Scandinavian melancholy, combined with the power and charm of the glam rock of the 70s.
After touring Europe, he realizes that he prefers a certain stability, focusing on writing and production: “it was almost a relief to realize that I no longer had to go on the road for promotion and that in reality I was equally creative by spending my time in the studio, writing songs and producing ».
Since turning to writing and producing in the 2000s, Kvint has produced and written songs for Britney Spears and Heather Nova, country-rock singer Trace Adkin, a-ha and his frontman Morten Harket, the Japanese duo Chemistry and the female duo Puffy, the Latin star Erik Rubin, the glamsters The Ark. In 2021 he contributes to the successful return of Eagle Eye Cherry with which he had already collaborated and discovers talents such as GRANT, Cajsa Stina Åkerström and Albin Lee Meldau.
The working method
Kvint feels equally comfortable with both a certain type of “epic pop songs” and songs with classic, blues or soul melodies: “The downside of working as a writer and producer is that sometimes you have to move outside of your own comfort zone, working with genres you are not normally associated with. This also means that you never stop developing your skills. “
Kvint’s soft-spoken, yet confident approach has made him the perfect foil for artists looking for a collaborator. Studio Brun is situated in the heart of trendy Södermalm in Stockholm. With all its vintage instruments and equipment it has become a second home to many visiting artists
Interview with Peter Kvint
Let’s start straight with a question about the “future”: are there new projects on the horizon? I see it’s been newly released “Fire in my eyes”, co-written and co-produced by you.
I have a couple of really exciting projects coming up. Right now we’re finishing GRANT’s second album, for which I have co-written and produced a majority of the songs. First single is due for release early fall. I feel very emotinally attached to the project, as I ”discovered” her and helped exploring which kind of songs felt good for her. We discovered we both had a taste for old triphop records (Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky etc) and 60s girl groups (Shangri-Las, Ronettes etc). The first album was quite successful here in Sweden and she was nominated for ”Best newcomer” at the Grammy awards.
I’m also writing and producing a Christmas album with my old idol Björn Skifs. I grew up with his music in the 70s and I’ve always loved his voice – he’s simply a world class ”blue-eyed soul” singer!
I’m also writing and producing a Christmas EP with John Lundvik, another amazing singer. He won the Swedish ESC entry contest in 2019. (Lots of Christmas music so I’ve been in a Christmas kind of mood all summer. 🙂
I’ve been writing a lot with ESC winner Loreen lately and we’re preparing a couple of songs for single releases this fall. Really exciting to hear her sing in Swedish.
I’m also finishing an EP with Albin Lee Meldau. As you may notice, I’m working a lot with great voices. Voices are what gets me going and keeps me inspired.
The music branch has undergone incredible changes in the last decades. How difficult is it to work in the digital era? Maybe it’s technically easier but it’s more and more difficult to translate a “digital download” into a real profit, while on the other hand, the vinyl and music cassettes are coming back and a more artisan way of making music seems to come back, what’s going on?
The digital era is quite different from the vinyl/CD-era. It’s much more single oriented and it affects my work to some extent. I used to work with one artist on an album and it could take, maybe, three months. Nowadays I have to work with lots of different projects, with different artists, at the same time. I kind of prefer the long-term projects, but it can also be a lot of fun working with five different artist in the same week. It never gets boring!
Economically, the digital world is challenging. In the CD age, friends of mine could have a couple of album cuts, with big artists, a year and make good money from it. Nowadays you HAVE to have the single. I’ve been blessed with lots of airplay – that’s where I earn the most – but there’s a lot to be done about streaming revenues. The record labels make good money from streaming – mostly from catalogue music – and in my opinion the writers should earn more. Writers can’t tour and earn money like the artists. It sort of drains the possibilities to make a living for the next generation of songwriters.
During the pandemic, you – as many other musicians – get used to share “homemade videos” of your live performances. The pandemic has amplified the possibility of “smart working” even within the musical branch at least in the preliminary – sometimes lonesome – working phases of writing, recording, mixing and so on, but you are a skillful guitarist and a performer too and I guess that the “live” aspect of the business, and concerts are still the most vital side of playing music. A live performance is where you really test and “taste” the audience vibes and appreciation. As a producer and a performer yourself, how do you see the future of concerts and live performances? Will ever a “like” on the screen substitute the emotion of the sing along, the sweat in the air, the warmth of a shaking hand?
Thank you! I don’t really consider myself a performer but if you say so… There’s been a lot of talk here in Sweden about replacing live music with digitally streamed live music, but judging from how things look right now it seems that people have really longed for going to concerts. All the artists I’m working with have lots of gigs this summer and fall – probably more and with larger audiences than before the pandemic. From the artist’s point of view it’s a totally different experience not having an audience to relate to when you play streamed concerts. There’s nothing quite like the buzz you get when you have a expectant crowd in front of you. I have missed both going to concerts and playing concerts A LOT during the pandemic.
You have declared that one of your future ambitions is to write songs that stands the test of time, evergreen the likes of Gershwin or Bacharach. With hits on your side like “Glorious” by Andreas Johnson or “Calleth You, Cometh I” by The Ark I personally think you are on the right way. But would you rather prefer to stand the test of time with an evergreen signed Peter Kvint 100% (singer, songwriter and producer)? It’s a provocation, of course…
I always try to create something timeless, both when it comes to writing and producing. That means I try to avoid following trends. Sometimes it’s harder – I love 80s music and sounds and I can’t help but find the current 80s production trend exciting (songs like The Weeknd’s ”Blinding lights” and Coldplay’s ”Higher power”). I worked with a-ha who kind of created this sound! The EDM production trend a couple of years ago, on the other hand, I tried to avoid as much as possible.
I’m actually working on a 2nd solo album right now, and who knows? Maybe there are one or two classic songs in there? 🙂
When you work on a track, do you perceive it is going to be a hit? Do you have your own personal recipe while literally “mixing” the ingredients and make the magic because it seems like you don’t miss a …hit!
I don’t really consider myself a great commercial pop writer – there are other people who are much better at that – but I’m a sucker for great songs, whether they are a, say ”American songbook” kind of song (Gershwin, Berlin, Bucharach etc), a heavy metal song (”Run to the hills” with Iron Maiden), a pop song (Beatles ”Penny Lane”) or a ”Americana” song (”After midnight” with JJ Cale). Great songs give me a buzz and make me want to create something equally great. I always try to focus on melodies, harmonies and lyrics. That’s where my heart is. I’m not really a ”beat maker”, but sometimes in sessions I end up in that role, which is interesting too.
You have worked both as co-writer and/or producer with international artists: just to name few let’s recall Britney Spears, Natasha Bedingfield, Trace Adkin, Heather Nova, Bachelor Girl, a-ha and his lead singer Morten Harket, Eagle Eye Cherry and many more. Is there still a musician today that you would like to collaborate with?
If I work with someone, I like to feel that I really can contribute. Sometimes people ask me to work with someone who’s work I really admire, but if I feel I can’t contribute there’s no use. If James Blake called (which will never happen) I would get really confused. I would LOVE to work with him but I think he’s so brilliant on his own! I would almost feel afraid to mess things up.
Having said that, I think the most exciting projects are the ones where I can be there from the beginning – to have a formative role. With GRANT, we created something from the start, and the same goes for Albin Lee Meldau’s Swedish projects. The songs we write now with Loreen are unique – I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like that in Swedish.
(I think Lana del Rey is great and if she called I wouldn’t say no!)
Each producer has his own “sound trademark”, I think about Tony Visconti who can be defined the real guru of the Glam rock thanks to the collaboration with David Bowie or Don Kirshner, the “man with the golden ear”. The way you use the strings in the arrangement of a song is amazing, so how would you define your musical landscape, what’s your “trademark”, the one you wished to be recognized for and that can make everybody says “Oh this is truly Peter Kvint!”?
People keep telling me there’s a ”Peter Kvint” kind of sound, both in my writing and in my production, but I swear to God – I don’t know what that is! If you twist my arm, maybe I have a few guesses… I like dynamics, both in songwriting and production, and being and old glam rocker I love drama! Strings are always nice and maybe there’s a kind of Nordic melancholy in the melodies. I’m also very particular about vocal production, both lead vocals and harmonies. I love a sense of presence in a vocal performance and that’s why I love to work with great singers. You can fake great pitch and great timing but there’s no way you can fake a sense of presence and real feelings.
You are singer, songwriter, producer, which is the role that you prefer?
I started out as a guitarist, then I started singing, writing songs and producing, picked up other instruments along the way and nowadays I just consider myself a musician. I’m comfortable in all the roles you mentioned but it’s all just part of the same package. i don’t want to limit myself into being just a songwriter, just a producer or just an artist. Each of these roles nurture the others. Writing, producing and releasing my first solo album was a very important step for me – it made me reconnect with my musical roots and the music I grew up with. I like to believe my songwriting got better from it.
Which is the most exciting aspect in your activity? What’s the driving energy that makes you love what you do?
I marvel each day that we create something that wasn’t there in the morning! Songs are their own universes and we are the gods who create them. To think I get to do that every day makes me really humble. The best feeling in this world is when you go home after work, having written something that you really love, and listen over and over and over again to it while cooking dinner. I get a buzz from knowing I am one of just a few people who have heard this miracle. There’s defenitely a ”wait ’til you hear this, world!” kind of dimension to it, too!
What does intrigue you in seeking a collaboration or accepting a proposal of collaboration?
Songwriting can be really unpredictable. Sometimes the sessions that you think are going to be great aren’t, and the sessions you don’t expect much of are the greatest. You just never know. That can be frustrating and quite charming too. As I mentioned earlier, I always like to feel that I can contribute, and I like great voices. I also tend to work with people who have a story to tell. Sort of makes my job easier when they are aware of who they are and what they want to say. I’d rather work with someone who are very explicit of what they want to do and what they don’t want to do than someone who can write or sing in any style.
As a producer and co-writer, which is the artist who was “tough” to work with, but in the end gave you the biggest satisfaction, the one who mostly opposed to your musical choices or to your lyrics, but then it revealed to be a positive outcome?
I have to say that Morten Harket (lead singer of a-ha) left me a bit bewildered sometimes in the beginning of our collaboration. I just didn’t know what he was after. Then I realized that he just wanted to feel the music he created, and then it became much easier. He’s not just a great pop writer, he also wants to create songs that have a certain ethereal quality to it, and that can affect anything from basic structure of songs to arrangement and vocal production. I’ve learnt A LOT from Morten about vocal production. He can be really picky about timing – sometimes he wants to lay down over hundred vocal tracks on a song just to get the timing 100% right. But later, when you listen back to it, you realize he was right – it was worth it. The songs gets kind of ”three dimensional” and has a more ethereal feel to it having gone through all that vocal production work.
When reading your biography, it’s easy to perceive that art, literature and music were your daily bread. When did you perceive that music was going to define your life?
Actually quite late. I thought I was going to be a writer. Maybe a journalist, probably an author. I had started on a university education and was going to study literature, but then I got drafted to doing military services. During that I met a guy who was a great guitarist and we used to sneak down in the basement of the barracks, where we had set up some amps, and jam for hours. He convinced me to apply for a music education, and once I started there there was no turning back.
You have been awarded many times and received lots of Grammy’s nominations. What’s the meaning of success for you?
There’s no greater reward than if people likes a song I’ve written! Award nominations are nice because they tend to bring attention to you, but after a couple of years nobody remembers who got nominated or who won the Grammy. Songs, on the other hand, live a life of their own, and there’s no greater thing than when a song you’ve helped creating really flies!
If you could make a wish upon yourself and a wish upon music, what will it be?
I always try to challenge myself, learn more about music and get better. Let that be my wish: that I get better and can go on writing for a long time!
And that’s what I wish you too. Thank you, Peter. Tack! 🙂
© Annalisa Maurantonio